Parallel Lines

IMG_3808   What I need to read.

IMG_3813   What I would rather read.

Lately I’ve been torn between my work and my hobby. When I am trying to read theory, all I can think about is how much I would rather be knitting or reading about knitting. Then, I spiral into wondering what I’m doing with my life. Maybe it’s all a part of a mid-life crisis intensified by this move to San Antonio.

When I confided to my friend S about my mid-life crisis, she mentioned that she recently had a similar conversation with her friends about how–when they were struggling with their writing–they found themselves training for a marathon or learning to swim. But rather than describe this as a conflict, she described it as a parallel activity, one that is not in competition with the writing, but somehow aligned.

I’m taking comfort in these words. I’m not sure where my writing is going to take me, but for now, I’m going to embrace this ambivalence. After all, parallel lines travel in the same direction even if they never meet.

Running: From different angles

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This weekend was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, with the children’s races on Saturday and the adults’ on Sunday. V had signed Little A up for it a while back and as the date approached, she alternated between excitement and fear. Little A had been at home sick with asthma and allergies for three days, and we weren’t sure if she was going to be up for the challenge of running 1/2 mile.

V ran with her, just to make sure she would be OK. It was wonderful that parents were able to join in on the fun too. And the moment the race began, she took off like a shot.

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I’ve never seen her so determined, and she completed the whole course without stopping. Her favorite part of the race, besides getting a medal for participation? Beating Dad.

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Here they are crossing the finish line. Where did she learn about the lean in?

Early the next day, we could hear the preparations outside. We live right on the marathon route and Little A decided that she was going to go down early and get a good seat.

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Little A made sure to wear her sparkles and, of course, her medal, and she also brought down her art supplies. The first thing she wanted to do when she woke up that morning was to draw the event. We’ve been talking a lot about how drawing is not just about being able to control the pencil but also about learning to see. I think that really resonated with her as she is such a curious and observant little person, and drawing has become a way for her to take it all in.

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Sitting in our chairs, with me sipping my morning coffee, we watched over 26,000 people bike, run and walk by. (The man in blue is V’s friend.) It was inspiring to see so many people run, and it looks like Little A and V have caught the running bug. V is now going to run a 1/2 marathon in March and Little A also wants to run too.  As for me, yarn crawls are more my speed.

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Here’s her picture. It is actually a time line of the event–the police officers setting up the barricades and the orange cones, the cyclists who set off first and the runners who came after. The lady with the dog is the neighbor below us that we finally met.

Origins

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We left Portland just before Black Sheep Gathering and the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival took place. So, when we got to San Antonio, one of the first things I did was to see if there was something comparable in the area. It is not an exaggeration to say that I had been counting down the days to Kid ‘N Ewe and Llamas Too, the fiber festival just outside of San Antonio in Boerne.

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Besides the general thrill of being surrounded by this much color and texture, what I like about these events is that you get to meet the people behind the scenes–the dyers, the breeders, and the artisans that make and produce these fabulous fibers. These festivals are the fiber equivalent of farmers markets where you have the opportunity to meet the farmers directly and learn where your food comes from. Little A also likes learning about where these fibers come from, but she likes to go directly to the source and feed them.

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Here is Anne Podlesak of Wooly Wonka. I discovered her fibers during the Hill Country Yarn Crawl, and it was nice to able meet her in person.  I’m currently spinning a beautiful mixed BFL/silk braid dyed by Anne, and it is magnificient.
 
 

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I haven’t been to enough of these kinds of events to generalize, but what struck me about this small but long running (25 years) event is its deep roots to the Texan landscape. Here is a representative from the Mohair Council of America, which is based in Texas. Texas produces 90% of total US mohair. He facilitated a fascinating conversation with other angora goat breeders on the features of prize-winning goats and the different considerations that go into breeding them. Not only did they know their stuff but their knowledge was cumulative and historical, passed down from one generation to the next. I loved that during the talk, the breeders would talk about their daddies and cite their experiences and perspectives.

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We also spent some time talking to these two men as they sat outside carving arrowheads. The tarp on the ground is not only to make cleaning easy but also to preserve the archeological integrity of the place. They didn’t want the shards to be left in the area. In the event that this landscape is studied many years from now, they didn’t want someone to mistake these shards as native to this location.

At one point, someone asked us where we were from. Normally, these questions put me a little on the defensive. And given how often I have moved, I’m never really sure how to answer that question. But somehow, at this event where origins are an important part of the story, I didn’t mind at all.   “San Antonio” V answered.  “Portland,” I added.

Outside my comfort zone continued…

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The first photo of handspun I saw made me want to cry. It was a spiral of colors from ocean blue, green earth and sky blue, and flecked with bits of gold. It seemed to contain the world. Only much later did that I learned that it was spun from batts dyed and carded by the talented Lacey of Moonrover.

This is a series of firsts: first time spinning Moonrover, first time spinning a batt, and first time spinning using the long draw method to produce a thick and thin yarn. I loved pulling my hand back and feeling the back and forth of resistance and give, the spinning wheel my dance partner, and the batts unfolding tiny treasures of silk and sparkle as we went along.

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Moonrover Dark Side Batts #17 (superwash merino, superwash BFL, firestar, bamboo, faux cashmere,  sari silk, tussah silk noil, ecospun and angelina)

Outside my comfort zone

Regardless of what I intend, I end up spinning lace weight yarn. It’s apparently typical of advanced beginners, who are finally able to spin finely, but are then unable to spin the thicker yarns they used to.

Below is an example of my spinning slump:  worsted-spun lace weight that seems to go on forever. (For the record, this is Blue Moon Fiber Art’s Sheep 2 Shoe kit in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Vampire” and I’m about half way through what will eventually become a 3-ply sock yarn.)

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So, to shake things up a little and to take a break from the above pictured spinning project, I’ve been trying out some different drafting methods. I’m hoping that these new techniques will jolt me out of my default mode, which is to spin using the short draft method.

I decided to try my hand at spinning semi-woolen yarn using this beautiful falkland braid from Pigeonroof Studio in “Electric Rose.” The colors and intensity are stunning, but I wanted to make the color contrasts and shifts less dramatic.

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Woolen and semi-woolen yarns tend to be fuzzier than worsted, which would help with smoothing out the color changes. The other reason I wanted to spin semi-woolen was I wanted to create a thick but light and airy yarn.  Since I don’t have hand cards or a drum carder, I decided to spin from the fold, which meant separating small pieces (as pictured) and spinning each section separately but still sequentially. Mine were really small pieces, though they don’t have to be. I held each piece folded over and just let the twist travel up through the center of the fold, pulling the fiber away from me. For a great photo tutorial on spinning from the fold, check out Abby Franquemont’s site.

The swatch on the left is worsted spun and the one on the right is semi-woolen spun. There is a bit more stitch definition in the swatch on the left and the color shifts are more pronounced. The woolen swatch is fuzzier, with slightly blurred stitch definition. Also, the colors are a bit more heathered and the color shifts are more gradual.

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The worsted yarn is more tightly coiled and the stitches are more refined and uniform. The semi-woolen yarn is looser and rough around the edges.  I used a US 7 needle for both and cast on 17 stitches (a random number) for each swatch, but they’re obviously not the same size. You can see how the energy of the  worsted yarn draws the swatch in and up while the semi-woolen is more expansive and relaxed. They’re like the Felix and Oscar of yarn.

Hopefully these differences are clearer in the two photos below. (I should also add that though they are roughly the same height, I’ve knitted 20 rows in the worsted swatch and only 18 in the semi-woolen.)

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Here’s “Electric Rose” all spun up. Since spinning from the fold is a new drafting method for me, my yarn was especially uneven. Still, I love this plump and sprongy yarn. IMG_3643

Mere mortal

I should know better than to boast about my “moderation and restraint” when it comes to yarn buying. “What arrogance! What hubris!” the Yarn Gods must have thought. They decided to humble me by announcing a 40% sale off of everything at the Old Oaks Ranch, which is sadly closing its doors. The next morning, I found myself playing hookey, bombing down the curved roads of the Hill Country and driving more than an hour to get to Wimberley, where I  was rendered helpless like a little child. With a credit card.

As I pulled up, there was an older gentleman lounging in the shade presumably waiting for his wife or partner who was shopping inside.

“Some people will go far for a yarn sale,” he drawled. Yes, I admitted, totally ashamed. “I drove from San Antonio.”

It was only later that I realized we still had our Oregon license plate.

Here is my (ahem) punishment: a mountainous pile untethered to a pattern, plan or project.

Quelle horreur! (Or, as VAW more aptly puts it, Quelle hoarder!)

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